Monday, July 14, 2008

Are all (romance) books the same?

I just read a post on Amarinda's blog about another writer she calls "Sheila". Sheila told her that it should be easy to write her books because they're all the same. I don't think all books are the same. Nor all romance books. Do you? Sure, to be a "romance" they have to have a "happily ever after". There has to be at least two characters to have a romance. There has to be a conflict. That's pretty general and vague. Beyond that, there's a universe full of stuff that can and does happen. Romance is divided into many sub-genres. Paranormal (vampire, shape-shifters, ghosts, witches, demons, psychic), Military, Sweet, Erotic (and within erotic all these other sub-genres apply), cowboy, historical, futuristic, contemporary, menage, M/M, MMF, F/F, FMF, BDSM, etc. I, too, have friends that think "romance" books are porn. That they are merely "slot A fits into slot B" and nothing more and thank you very much but no thank you because they know how slot A fits into slot B. Oi! I like story. NO, I LOVE story. If you read my books, you know story is king. I've even had reviews that say my romantica books are heavy on story. I hope and think that's a good thing. Of course if they fall into the erotic romance category, they are also obviously going to be erotic as well as romantic. Lately I've written a couple books (to be released soon) that I worried were too different from my normal books. It had too much plot for an erotic romance. But my editor really liked it, so I'm happy. I was worried because readers expect to pick up a book from a specific author to get a specific type of reading experience. When I read Sherryl Woods, whom I love btw, I know what I'm getting. I know if I read an Amarinda Jones book I'll get a strong heroine who is sassy and flawed, just the way I like. Ditto for a Linnea Sinclair book. To analyze my books, I see thaat I tend to have a lot of costumes and disguises. Not always, but quite often. Why? I honestly don't know. I've also blown up Planet Earth at least twice now. I honestly can't say I've read any other romance book that's done that. Maybe they're out there, but I've not seen them. Since I've written more than 40 romances and only twice have I blown up Earth, I don't think even Sheila can say I always write the same thing. (One of these is already published by NCP and one is coming soon from TEB). I've also noticed that my vampires are looking for redemption. Why? Maybe I'm looking for redemption. I'm still psychoanalyzing myself on that one. I tend to have quirky, funny secondary characters while I let my hero and heroine be the straight guys. Rather like George and Gracie. Hopefully not as ditzy as Gracie for although I absolutely adore her, I don't like ditzy people on the whole. At least not in my books. Especially not my heroes and heroines. To get back to the issue of Sheila, it amazes me how people (not just writers) think their shit doesn't stink and everybody else's does. Or how their books are wonderful (the age-old debate between romance writers and supposedly serious fiction writers and now how romance writers published with non-ebook publishers look down their nose on e-book published romance writers). Save me! Double oi! I'm no longer a member of RWA even though I was for years. I didn't quit in protest. Honestly, I was broke at the time of membership renewal so I had to let it go. I've thought of renewing it since, but I'm not sure I want to. I enjoy the RWR and several members. I enjoyed my online RWA group, From the Heart, as they did not look down on ebooks. So maybe I'll rejoin. But I'm not sure yet. I've also run into too many that are prejudiced and holier than thou. I usually stay out of this debate so I'll probably hate myself in the morning after I've hit the sent button. As a customer service rep I think I'm ingrained to soothe situations, not enflame them. But oh well. Now you know my basic opinion although I'm holding a lot back. I have nothing against traditionally published authors or traditional publishers. I'm working in that direction but I also think ebooks are the way of the future so I fully intend to keep publishing ebooks also. So how are your books different from each other? Or those of your favorite authors.


Molly Daniels said...

I had to quit reading books by a certain publisher in HS, because after reading about ten, I realized they were pretty much the same. Just the settings and characters changed. And after a while, I stopped reading a certain mainstream romance author's books because of the same problem, only the h/h's attitudes stayed the same. I pick up her books every now and then...some are good; others don't grab me anymore.

I've tried to make mine different, but they sometimes run close to the same relationship issues.

When I'm writing the erotica, my kids call it 'soft porn' if they see certain words on the screen!

Unknown said...

I've avoided this debate. I really have. I too am a customer service person, so when discussions turn to "issues" I tend to back away.

But I've finally had it. Yes, people are entitled to their opinions. And if they don't like it, they don't have to read it. But we work so hard, sometimes it just gets to the point that you have to scream "ENOUGH!"

If all romance were the same, with the exception of the writer doing the bitching of course, then it wouldn't be the highest selling genre in the industry. If you and I wrote the same books with different character names, we wouldn't have such different fans. If every book was the same I would have three hundred instead of just the six. Because I could just go into my word file click on find/replace for a few key words and boom: new book every day.


Great post Ashley!


Phoenix said...

I have a theory that writers work through their subconscious issues in their work. Those themes repeat and solve over and over until the author has a satisfactory conclusion in her personal life. I don't mean this creates the same book, but I think the themes are there, underlying subplot, or a single scene's dialogue. So if this makes them similar to each other, call it voice.

BUT that being said, we are creative people. If our stories were the same over and over again, we'd get bored and quit. Therefore, no, they aren't carbons of the last book. Our authorness wouldn't allow it.

Sandra Cox said...

Good blog, Ash.

Unknown said...

I'm a list maker and I made a list of my stories last night and a TV Digest like short description. Most were quite different from one another. With the exception of two times I blew up planet Earth and three times characters are shipwrecked somewhere (usually in deep space, but not necessarily), they're very different.

Shelley Munro said...

I think writers off have a common theme in their books, but there's no way I'd say one romance plot fits all. I tend to write about finding security and a place to call home.

Ashley, have you checked out Romance Divas. They have a great writing community and ebook authors are welcomed. It's free to join the forum and you don't need to be a member of RWA.

Unknown said...

The Shelia of this work will never change - my care factor? Whatever...I lose no sleep over the opinions of others

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